Over the years I have received many phone calls from someone reporting they’ve seen a Whooping crane. Some sightings have been credible and others not. If it’s not, I do my best to kindly inform them that no, Whoopers don’t land in trees, they don’t travel in flocks of hundreds and so on.
Last week I received a call from a gentleman and when I inquired where it was he had seen them, to my surprise he said Alberta! I don’t think I have ever received a sighting for the wild flock. We talked for a bit, he is a very experienced birder and has even rehabbed raptors for years. Unfortunately he didn’t have any photos but he was looking at them via binoculars and by his description it certainly seemed like a credible sighting. He told me that he had called several places to report his sighting but so far no one had gotten back to him. He found our number on the website and called the office.
While I have a lot of resources to report sightings on the eastern population, I don’t have anything but U.S. contacts for the wild flock. I did some searching and came up with a few to send to him.
The next day Murray sent me an email:
“Thanks so much for your endeavours to try and find a place to phone!
I did get a hotline and they abruptly said it was an impossible sighting! So I hung up they were so caustic.
I have been birding for 70+ plus years and have photographed whoopers before. I also belong to the Alberta “Big Horn“ award group.
The rarity of the sighting makes it unacceptable to believe by so called specialists.”
I’m not sure which hotline he called or whether it was Canada or U.S. based. However, I did apologize for the treatment he had received. A short time later he sent me another email: “Great news on the cranes!
The Canadian wildlife service just called and confirmed my sighting.
They had a radar hit on whoopers yesterday east and north of me at Toffield, Alberta.
They could not tell the number of birds so were pleased that I could supply them with the seven.
They think these birds will move east into Saskatchewan to join others before heading south.
Thought this would help you too?
Over the moon”
So there you have it. His sighting was credible and very valuable. It appears that some Wild Whoopers, likely juveniles, have started their migration south already.
Thank you Murray Mackay for your phone call. It was a pleasure speaking with you and I hope you see many more Whoopers to report.